One in 10 parents admit they favour one child over another in their will, new research has revealed.
Having a closer bond with a particular child, fearing a sibling would be irresponsible with their inheritance, assuming one of your offspring would need greater financial help and a bitter family feud were all cited as reasons parents intended not to split their assets equally when they die.
The survey by estates planning experts Slater and Gordon, which polled 2,000 parents, found one in six had not discussed their plans with their children – storing up potential for dispute later on.
Four in 10 (38 per cent) parents said they had not discussed their decision with their offspring, with one in five of those saying they were reluctant because they were worried it will create a family argument or resentment amongst their children.
In some cases, children had been entirely cut out of the will (1 in 20) with no warning or conversation beforehand, with many planning to hand over their estate to their partner, wife or husband.
James Beresford, Head of Wills, Trust, Tax and Probate at Slater and Gordon, said: “For many people writing a will is both a private matter and a morbid topic – not something that parents want to discuss with their adult children.
“While having such conversations can take courage, families that speak freely about these delicate issues can avoid problems and surprises down the line, particularly if assets are not being split equally between children.
“Explaining the reasoning behind your decision could make it easier for children to accept. Don’t assume it’s obvious why you have left something to one child and not the other.”
One in five (18 per cent) parents assumes their thought process for leaving them less than their sibling in their will would be clear.
Although one in 10 (9 per cent) were worried their children might feel angry and hurt if the reasoning behind it had not been explained beforehand.
A quarter of parents who have written a will said they have included conditions to how their estate should be spent including stipulating that some or all of the inheritance must be used to buy property, travel or even pay for their grandchildren’s education.
Nearly one in five (18 per cent) admitted they either have or intended to exclude their step children or partner's children from their will, in favour of their own biological children or relatives.
Worryingly, a third (33 per cent) of over 45 year olds had not written a will at all, despite some having large families, several properties, savings and family heirlooms.
Four in 10 (43 per cent) said they didn’t know what would happen to their estate and assets after they died and a third (33 per cent) admitted they were worried their loved ones would lose out if they were to die unexpectedly.
Over one in five (23 per cent) said they didn’t even understand the law on who would automatically be given their house and money if they died unexpectedly without a will.
James Beresford, Head of Wills, Trust, Tax and Probate at Slater and Gordon, said: “If you die unexpectedly without leaving a will, your property and possessions, will be shared out according to the rules of intestacy – and usually only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.
“Under the rules of intestacy, you have no say who inherits what from your estate. In some circumstances, even your spouse may not inherit all of your estate.
“If you care about what happens to your estate after you die and you want certain people to inherit certain cherished items, whatever your age, health and fitness status, it is vital to write a will. It will also make things easier for your loved ones after you’re gone when they have the added stresses of dealing with the grief of their loss.”
Of parents planning to give the lion’s share of their estate to one child, nearly half (43 per cent) said it was because they are the most responsible with money and 15 per cent did so for fear they would blow inheritance on unwise purchases.
Reasons For Parents Not Splitting Their Assets Equally:
1. Closer bond with one child
2. One child was more likely to need financial help
3. A feud or on going family dispute
4. didn’t think one of their children deserved the money
5. didn’t like or trust their child’s partner
6. wanted to bypass their children in favour of helping their grandchildren